Tim McComsey, RD, CPT, TRYM Fitness and Sunwarrior Contributing Writer
Many people I meet have this idea that they’ve got all the answers when it comes to weight loss. However, based on their knowledge, those people are generally not making their fitness goals a reality. Where are you getting your nutritional information? Do you really know what you’re reading when you look at a label on a food product? We gather information from all kinds of media outlets—television, radio, Facebook, Twitter, etc.—that show someone using a certain product or diet to obtain their figure or shape. While these gimmicks might appear to be a generalized plan to a fit lifestyle, everyone is unique in how their weight loss responds to diet. To clear out some misinformation, here are three things you thought you knew about weight loss.
We think low carb diets equal weight loss right? WRONG. According to the National Academy of the Sciences, you should limit yourself to 120 grams of carbohydrates per day. The Atkins Diet has you limit carbs to 20 grams per day. Most people steer toward the Atkins standard because it is socially understood as a good option for weight loss. But what is it exactly that we're limiting to lose weight?
Carbohydrates (carbs) are a source of energy found in grains, fruits, vegetable, and dairy foods. They supply your body with the glucose (sugar) it needs for energy. And thus carbs are important for our bodies to function properly.
There are two types of carbs, simple and complex. Simple carbs, or sugars (sodas, cookies, candies, sugary cereal, found naturally in fruits and vegetables), are absorbed fast by the body and will give you quick energy. Complex carbs (whole grain breads, brown rice, whole wheat pastas, yams, sweet potatoes, whole grain cereals) take longer to digest than simple carbs and most contain fiber, which is heart healthy and keeps you feeling full.
Now that we know a little about carbs and the different kinds we can start to realize why we need carbs. Vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function at the cellular level and supply us with the most natural source of energy are found in carbs.
The problems arise when we eat too many carbs as they will then be stored as fat. On the other hand, when you restrict your carb intake you tend to eat less because you are cutting foods out of your diet. Therefore you are not eating enough calories for your body to run efficiently, nor are you getting all the nutrients your body needs from food.
Now that you know you need to eat carbs to be healthy, you should also know that eating too much of a good thing can cause weight gain.
Fruit is healthy and contains a lot of valuable vitamins and minerals that we need, however, even fruit can lead to weight gain if you do not exercise portion control. Overeating is easy to do with any food, so remember that even if it's healthy, it can still put you into a calorie surplus. One exception to the rule is non-starchy vegetables (think green vegetables) which are difficult to overeat unless they are accompanied by unnecessary calories from sauces, cheeses, and butter.
Also foods that say low-fat or fat-free do not necessarily mean healthy. They may be high in sugar and calories so eating unlimited amounts can lead you to gain weight. So be careful of what you are eating and watch your portion sizes to help keep your weight in check.
Contrary to popular belief, diet energy drinks and diet sodas are not in your best interest and will not help you to lose weight. Diet sodas and diet energy drinks contain artificial sweeteners like sucralose and splenda. These chemical sweeteners may actually contribute to weight gain according to another study.
The San Antonio Heart Study followed 3,682 adults over eight years in the early '80s. Those who consumed more artificial sweeteners had higher BMIs, and the more they consumed, the higher the BMI.
Drinking one can a day isn’t likely to hurt you but the sweeteners are prone to become addictive or trick your body into making you hungrier. While the research for what these chemical sweeteners actually do to your brain is not so straightforward, remember this: when trying to save the calories, be cautious of what you are consuming. AND remember, studies show that drinking soda—diet or regular—can increase obesity and other health related problems.